A jury has seen video evidence of a girl telling police she was asked to a sleepover by the man accused of murdering five-year-old April Jones.
The Mold Crown Court trial of Mark Bridger, 47, of Ceinws, Powys, was shown the girl’s police interview.
In it, she said Mr Bridger asked her to a sleepover with his daughter on the day April disappeared from Machynlleth, but no arrangements were made.
He denies abducting and murdering April who went missing on 1 October 2012.
April, who had mild cerebral palsy, had been playing with a friend near her home on the Bryn-Y-Gog estate.
Prosecutors have told the court Mr Bridger killed April in a sexually motivated attack and traces of her blood were found at his cottage.
The defendant told police during interviews he accidentally hit April with his vehicle and “panicked”, the jury has heard.
The court has been told he claims he placed her body in his car and drove around but cannot recall what happened after that.
On Thursday, the jury was played a recorded police interview made three days after April went missing.
In it a 10-year-old girl told how she had been out playing with her friend.
She said: “I saw Mark in his car and he offered me to have a sleepover with his daughter at his house.”
Describing the incident further, she said: “He asked me if I could go and have a sleepover with his daughter.”
Talking to her
She added: “He parked up and spoke to me.”
She said Mr Bridger “got his window down” and started talking to her.
“I have seen him a couple of times…he’s been very nice to me and said hi, how am I doing,” she said.
She described his car as a left-hand drive vehicle.
She said it was a “bit odd” that he offered her a sleepover, but said she answered “that’ll be great”. No firm arrangements were made. Mr Bridger then left after the conversation, she said.
The girl said she saw Mr Bridger “five or 10 minutes later” near an area where she knew April played on her bike.
She said she saw him in his car “lying down with a newspaper on his lap with a walkie talkie in his hand”. She said he got up and saw her and she smiled at him.
She told how she had earlier seen April and her friend playing nearby.
“They were just playing on their bikes,” she said.
She said she then cycled home, had her dinner, and went back to see if he was still there but he had gone.
The court also heard a written statement from the girl’s mother in which she said her daughter had phoned her from her mobile at about 17:50 on the day April went missing and she could hear a man’s voice in the background which was Mr Bridger’s.
Later, the court heard from Carwen Sheen, from Machynlleth, who was helping in the search for April on 2 October, the day after she disappeared.
She said she saw Mr Bridger a couple of times that morning including at the side of the road near an embankment with the door of his vehicle open.
“I slowed down because I had a friend with me. She made a comment, ‘what’s he doing there’?” she said.
Ms Sheen said she saw Mr Bridger carrying a black bin bag.
Describing the bin bag, she said: “It was black and it was rolled up. There was a bit at the end hanging down”.
Although she knew Mr Bridger she said she did not acknowledge him.
Cross-examined by defence counsel Brendan Kelly QC, she disagreed that the bag was wrapped around Mr Bridger’s hand.
She said: “It was wrapped like a sausage… then there was a bit hanging down like it wasn’t wrapped fully.”
Elwen Evans QC, for the prosecution, asked Ms Sheen whether the bag looked empty.
“I would say there was something in it. Not very big but there was something in it,” she answered.
The jury was later told that earlier on 2 October, at around 08:30, Mr Bridger was with his employer at her bed and breakfast business he was helping to renovate.
Postman Huw Myrfyn Davies arrived there and, in written evidence, he recalled speaking to Mr Bridger.
He said: “I asked him if he had seen and heard about the news, to which he said he had. He appeared quite shocked.
“I believe he asked me what sort of vehicle they were looking for.”
The postman told Mr Bridger he had heard a variety of vehicles, ranging from a transit van to a Land Rover.
Earlier on Thursday, the jury heard a written statement from a teacher at April’s school who spent 10 minutes with Mr Bridger at a parents’ evening on 1 October discussing his daughter.
She said he seemed his “normal self, although something gave me the impression that he might have had a couple of drinks”. She said she could not smell alcohol on him.
The jury also heard from several witnesses who had seen Mr Bridger driving around the estate on the evening that April disappeared.
After the case resumed following lunch, a resident of the defendant’s village said she saw Mr Bridger’s car reversing onto the drive of his home at around 20:34 on the night April went missing.
April’s disappearance sparked the biggest police search in UK history.
She has never been found.
Mr Bridger also denies intending to pervert the course of justice.
The case continues.